Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

'With Us or Against Us?'

The Arab Gulf States, in particular Saudi Arabia, are witnessing a remarkable diplomatic movement, with both publicized and undeclared contacts and visits by US officials, as well as a trip of the Russian Foreign Minister to the region.

This movement comes in light of the repercussions of the Ukrainian crisis, the stagnation of the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna, and with the increasing talk about an upcoming visit of US President Joe Biden to the region.

Meanwhile, in an official statement, Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the Ukrainian crisis required a European solution, adding that the “with us or against us” approach would not work.

I believe that this is an accurate and correct statement. The issue today is not “with us or against us,” as mentioned by the Omani foreign minister, but about our interests, and yours. This is not blackmail or recklessness, but the reality.

The simplest example is the difficulties faced by the European countries themselves to reach an agreement on boycotting the Russian oil that they receive by sea by the end of this year, with the exception of the oil that passes through the Russian Druzhba pipeline, which reaches Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

If this is the case of the European Union, which, along with the United States, imposes unprecedented sanctions on Russia, what will be the situation of other countries that are affected by the Ukrainian crisis, which are not a party to the conflict, nor part of European territory?

Here, someone might ask: Is neutrality the solution? Of course not. Rather, what is required, for the Gulf States, or others, is to take into account their security, political and economic interests, all of which are intertwined and interrelated, especially with Iranian threats and the possibility of war in the region.

Accordingly, we are not facing simple options, nor a black and white issue, but rather a complex crisis that has changed the rules of the game, and imposed a global equation that is similar to the Cold War, as well as the formation of two camps. Thus, simple stances cannot be taken without bearing in mind the interests.

The Gulf States cannot take sides without calculating losses and profits. Such calculations are not easy, and are not based on the reality of oil prices today. They actually depend on the present, tomorrow and the day after. The battle is long, and the consequences are far-reaching.

Consequently, any Saudi or Gulf agreement made with the United States, for example, will be of a strategic nature and will have a lot of implications at the security, economic and political levels.

The same applies to the relationship with Russia, as no one can predict the Russian plan or its final goal in the Ukrainian crisis, especially amid unprecedented international sanctions on Moscow, which are tantamount to an ongoing war, even if the war in Ukraine ends.

Therefore, we are not facing a situation of “with us or against us”, or neutrality or not, but rather we are in front of a bigger story: Where is our interest in all what’s happening? How can we deal with a global crisis, where neutrality is an impossible choice?

My conviction is that our primary goal must be our interests, and how to achieve them, with cold rational calculations.